The graduate numbers behind gender equality for government appointments

At the weekend, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews pledged equal male-female representation for state government public board and legal appointments. The Liberal Party similarly announced that it would increase female representation among its MPs.

The task of more equal representation in senior jobs has become easier over time as women’s educational levels first matched and then exceeded men’s. Women have made up a majority of university students since 1987, and in the census it is now only in the 60+ age group that men outnumber women as graduates.

Despite this educational success, full-time labour force participation rates differ significantly between men and women, something we have given a lot of attention due to its implications for HELP debt repayment. The chart below shows how female full-time workforce participation declines as women enter their thirties. It goes up again in their forties, but never to their previous levels or men’s rate of full-time work.

male female FT
Source: Census 2011

People can have successful careers working part-time. But prolonged periods of part-time work inevitably mean significantly less experience. Any many senior jobs just cannot be done on a part-time basis, and indeed cannot be routinely done within ‘normal’ working hours.

This has obvious implications as to how many people with the relevant level of experience are in the pool of potential applicants for senior positions. However, the differences are not quite as dramatic as the slide above might suggest, because more women had the appropriate initial educational qualifications in the first place. The chart below shows absolute numbers of graduates by gender working in full-time managerial or professional positions. Women are around 40% of the pool in the aged 40+ group most likely to get the top jobs.

man prof
Source: Census 2011

For judicial appointments, only about a third of full-time legal professionals in their 40s are women, and the share is less than 30 per cent for people over 50 (chart below). Perhaps the very long hours typical in the law make it harder to maintain a pool of highly experienced female lawyers.

legal prof
Source: Census 2011

In absolute terms, there are enough women to fill the relatively small number of board and judicial appointments. But with an open recruitment approach, there will be many more male than female contenders with the qualifications and experience for senior positions.

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Note: The absolute numbers in the census will be too low. It has a problem with people not answering all the questions. Males are less likely than females to respond to other surveys, so there may be an undercount of men.

One thought on “The graduate numbers behind gender equality for government appointments

  1. Interesting post.
    Given that the number of ‘real contenders’ for these positions would actually be a small subset of the number of full-time graduates working in the appropriate fields – those whose abilities were at the top of the ‘graduate working full-time’ group – selection effects could be important. In particular, it seems likely that the graduates who exit full-time work will on average be of lower ability than those who stay. Given that a greater proportion of females exit, this would increase the ‘quality’ of the female pool relative to the male pool. Therefore, when thinking about ‘real contenders’, the male-female discrepancy would likely be lower than (or possibly even the reverse of) what these charts indicate.

    Like

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